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Bishop's Homily for the Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

September 4, 2023

[Christ the King Church, Kahului; St. Joseph Church, Makawao (with installation of pastors)]

Imagine if Jesus came to the moment of his arrest and his trial before the Jewish officials and the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate, when they confronted him about things he had said, and he replied, “Wait a minute!  This has gone too far!  You misinterpreted me.  When I called you a brood of vipers, I was only using a figure of speech.  Yes, I was challenging you, but I did not mean to offend you.  When I spoke of God as my Father, I was simply expressing the same love of God that you have, but I am afraid you have misinterpreted me to think that I am trying to make myself one with God.  When I spoke about giving my flesh and blood as real food and drink, you misunderstood.  I only meant to say I am fully dedicated to the people, ‘all-in’ as they say.  I am sorry if I offended you.  Please accept my sincerest apologies.”  If he had said these things, maybe the officials would have let him go, and he would have lived happily ever after, dying a peaceful death in his old age.  And we would probably not be here right now celebrating the Eucharist, because Jesus would probably have faded into historical memory to perhaps be conjured up in a Google search, but nothing more.

No one said, “Jesus is so nice, so compassionate and loving.  Let’s crucify him!”  He was crucified because he told the truth, even when others did not want to hear the truth.  He told the truth about God and God’s love to those who accepted him and to those who did not.  Those who did became his disciples.  Those who did not wanted to do away with him, to silence him forever.

This is what prophecy is about, speaking the truth of God, even when it upsets others, even when it may cause us to suffer.  The prophet Jeremiah, who speaks to us in the first reading, was not considered a “nice” man by many, because he spoke the truth that he heard from God – not his own opinion, but the truth God had revealed to him.  He suffered a great deal.  Today we hear him lament that God duped him, made him think that doing God’s will was going to bring him peace, but it brought the opposite.  He was ready to give up, but realized the love of God that made him speak was so powerful, so strong, that he could not hold it in.  He had to keep speaking the truth that God revealed to him, even if it brought him much suffering.

When we speak the truth about the sanctity of all life, from the moment of conception to natural death, many think we are just stubbornly behind the times, out of touch with modern-day realities and attitudes.  They would like nothing better than to silence us, make us go away.  Yet the God who gives us life has called us at this time to be prophets, so that the truth of the sanctity of life can be proclaimed, even if many reject that truth – and ridicule those who speak it.

Parents must often say things to their children that the children would rather not hear.  Of course, no parent should be domineering or disrespectful of their children.  Jesus told us to take up our own crosses, not to become crosses ourselves!  But if a parent sees a child going astray, isn’t it the most loving thing to do to try to set that child on the right path?  Will there be pushback and complaining?  Perhaps.  But that should not prevent a parent from guiding a child, even when the child would rather not be guided.

If a man knows of a buddy of his who is abusive of his wife, should he not sit down and have a man-to-man talk with his friend to listen to the frustrations that cause him to be violent and to urge him to find other ways to handle his frustrations aside from taking them out on his wife.  His friend may be appreciative, or he may be very offended.  But that truth about the dignity of that woman will sink in, even if the husband is angry with his buddy who dared to confront him.  If no one exercises this prophetic task, then it is likely that the violence and abuse will continue, ultimately leading to greater misery for all.

There are so many things in our culture that are contrary to the truth revealed to us by God, such as same-sex marriage or gender ideology.  It is easy just to be nice, to mind our own business, and hope that they will work themselves out.  But that may very well be the way of Satan, rather than the way of God.  Just as he did in the time of Jeremiah, God still calls prophets to the nations, and prophets to individuals.  When we are called, it could very well be a cross to be prophetic, to lovingly criticize and call to a change of heart.  But unless we humble ourselves to take up these crosses, the Lord will never exalt us, because we have allowed ourselves and others to go the way of destruction rather than to choose the way of life.

Peter, who obviously struggled with this concept, ultimately knew that if one is focused on the love of Jesus, risen from the dead, whose power is always with us, he also could take up his cross.  He knew that Jesus never asked anyone to do what he himself was unwilling to do, and we can find unimaginable strength and wisdom when we put our trust in Jesus, the Lamb once slain who lives forever.